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04-16-2010, 03:52 PM   #1
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marathon tips?

Hi everyone,

I'm going to be attending the Boston Marathon on Monday and wanted to get some tips from you folks. Most of the things that I shoot (landscape, cars, etc... ) don't involve too much movement so shooting a bunch of runners is all new to me.

Here's what I'll be playing with
Pentax ist DL
Pentax F 50MM f1.7
Pentax 18-55 Kit lens
Pentax A 70-210 f4

So, what's the recommended focal length? Is using the 70-210 manual focus lens a recipe for disaster for a newbie?

Thanks for reading.

04-16-2010, 04:15 PM   #2
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Either way (manual or AF) I feel that you would be advised to prefocuss for some of your shots. i.e focus on a point you would anticipate your moving subject will be at and click as he/she hits that point and you have a better chance of getting decently focussed shots.
Pentax is a little lacking in the fast focus for sport and action photography.
Try panning as well; i.e. follow your subject with your camera and keep the runner in the frame. Multi- click whilst moving with the subject, and it gives you a good chance of pickup action shots with the background blurred. This gives a real sense of speed.

Use faster speeds (TV setting) and perhaps a higher ISO setting of 400 or even upwards. It is all a bit of a trial and error.
Take plenty of shots, if available, and dont be afraid to vary your settings a little.

I am no professional, but I trust this helps you.
Best of luck. Let us know how you go. Put up a shot or two for us perhaps.

* I know nothing about the 70-210 you mention, perhaps somebody else can help you out there.Sorry
04-16-2010, 04:24 PM   #3
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I've shot the Marine Corps Marathon the past couple years as my husband has been running it (he keeps trying to get me to train for it and I keep resisting). I'll second what Bruce said for the most part. I tend to shoot action in AV but that's me. Everyone tells me I do it wrong but it's one of my quirks. I like to quickly change my DOF options and I keep the shutter speed fast by tweaking the ISO as needed. It's pretty much the same thing but a different way of achieving it.

I'm not sure how the Boston is but the MCM boasts 30,000 runners and is pretty much packed the bulk of the way. I have a lot of fun just firing into the crowd of runners and seeing what I end up with. Some of my favorite shots have been at water stations and such, especially of the large quantities of trash on the ground. But watch out for that too. I shot a half-marathon not long ago and was taking shots of runners picking up water. One runner took a sip and tossed the half-full cup down, right at my feet, which of course splashed up all over me and my camera.
04-16-2010, 05:36 PM   #4
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I have only shot one marathon. That was by accident. So I don't know what I am saying.


QuoteOriginally posted by Bramela Quote
Either way (manual or AF) I feel that you would be advised to prefocuss for some of your shots. i.e focus on a point you would anticipate your moving subject will be at and click as he/she hits that point and you have a better chance of getting decently focussed shots.
That was the first thing I was going to say.

I would be using manual focus, myself. Because otherwise the AF is going to keep locking onto background elements when foreground elements (that is, runners) roll on by.

QuoteOriginally posted by Bramela Quote
Use faster speeds (TV setting) and perhaps a higher ISO setting of 400 or even upwards.
That's one for shutter-priority...

QuoteOriginally posted by mel Quote
I tend to shoot action in AV but that's me. Everyone tells me I do it wrong but it's one of my quirks.
And that's one for aperture-priority...

So let me suggest you use... TAv mode. This lets you set your aperture to control depth of field, which I have found important to get good subject/background distinction. And it also lets you set your shutter speed, useful to control the sharpness of a moving target.

Then the camera varies ISO for you automatically to get the shot. Think of it as Manual mode with auto ISO.

If things get too grainy, just process as black and white.

04-16-2010, 06:02 PM   #5
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If you've never done a marathon before and have no idea where you're going to be wanting to point your camera to get the runners and get them in focus, I would recommend with starting by using your AF until you figure out how to translate what your camera is doing into manual focus methods.

AV mode is what I use as well, Bramela, and I find it to be incredibly useful. All you need to do is control the ISO and the aperture to get your desired depth of field, and then you can just let the camera do the rest for you. Sometimes in situations like this, I find that using full manual mode just takes too long and you can lose so many good photos that way.
04-16-2010, 06:10 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote

So let me suggest you use... TAv mode. This lets you set your aperture to control depth of field, which I have found important to get good subject/background distinction. And it also lets you set your shutter speed, useful to control the sharpness of a moving target.

Then the camera varies ISO for you automatically to get the shot. Think of it as Manual mode with auto ISO.

If things get too grainy, just process as black and white.
Hmmm. I tried shooting soccer once in TAv mode and it wasn't too successful. And maybe that's just me (wouldn't be the first time that I messed up something others find easy . . .). It seems to me that when your shutter reaches a certain speed while shooting moving humans, any faster won't make much of a difference in stopping motion. But it will make a difference in the quality of the exposure. This is why I use the f-stop to control DOF to the extent I am able for the the light conditions and use ISO to tweak the shutter speed. With humans, especially marathon running humans, 1/2000 will stop them as well as 1/4000. at least in my experience it has (and slower speeds will stop them as well).
04-16-2010, 06:13 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by jct us101 Quote
If you've never done a marathon before and have no idea where you're going to be wanting to point your camera to get the runners and get them in focus, I would recommend with starting by using your AF until you figure out how to translate what your camera is doing into manual focus methods.
Marathoners are fairly predictable. They're running one direction at a fairly even pace. If there is any sporting event you CAN shoot manual focus I'd say it's that one.
04-16-2010, 06:17 PM   #8
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OK, Mel, now you're confusing me. Maybe I am missing what you are trying to say.

QuoteOriginally posted by mel Quote
It seems to me that when your shutter reaches a certain speed while shooting moving humans, any faster won't make much of a difference in stopping motion. But it will make a difference in the quality of the exposure.
OK, but in TAv mode you set the shutter speed where you want it, so you can control this precisely.

QuoteOriginally posted by mel Quote
This is why I use the f-stop to control DOF to the extent I am able for the the light conditions and use ISO to tweak the shutter speed.
In Av mode ISO controls shutter speed only as a secondary effect. In TAv you get to directly control it.

04-16-2010, 06:22 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by mel Quote
Marathoners are fairly predictable. They're running one direction at a fairly even pace. If there is any sporting event you CAN shoot manual focus I'd say it's that one.
You're right, I don't know why but I thought that a marathon was totally something different. Don't ask what though, because I really have no clue (man these allergies are screwing with my mind, I can't think at all!). Yeah, manual focus would definitely be possible here.
04-16-2010, 06:29 PM   #10
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Resist the temptation to shoot runner crossing the end goal, all the other photog will be there. Don't think about shooting people running, instead, think about shooting trial and tribulation. Don't limit your self to the runners.

For what it is worth, my last marathon.
04-16-2010, 06:33 PM   #11
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Wow! Thanks to all for the tips.

I'm leaning towards using the manual 70-210. I figure that I should get a keeper in the 2-3 hours that I'm going to be out there. Is this focal length to restrictive for a marathon? Wide angle better?

Thanks again
04-16-2010, 06:37 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
OK, Mel, now you're confusing me. Maybe I am missing what you are trying to say.



OK, but in TAv mode you set the shutter speed where you want it, so you can control this precisely.



In Av mode ISO controls shutter speed only as a secondary effect. In TAv you get to directly control it.
Okay, what I have found is that my brain works backwards from most other people's brains. So what I do, and makes total sense to me, usually doesn't make any sense whatsoever to other people. But I keep putting it out there in hopes of finding a kindred backwards thinker like myself?

So here's my thinking. Once your shutter reaches "fast enough" it doesn't matter as much as getting the exposure right. So if you manually set it, and it's too fast, you get under exposed images. So for me, using the ISO to control the shutter (yes as a secondary affect because fast enough is fast enough and any faster won't stop human action any better) works, for me. As long as it's fast enough it's good and it will adjust to the light conditions.

Let me reiterate. This is what works for ME. I am constantly being told I do it wrong. When I try what everyone else says I should do I mess it up. But pretty much all I shoot is action: Plays, dance, performances, soccer, road races, baseball (and yes that one oh-so-joyous night of professional boxing!).

Probably the take home message for the OP would be though, to find what method works best for you and go with that .
04-16-2010, 06:47 PM   #13
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It seems I missed an issue there. By all means get into AV mode as well. Experiment with DOF. The more you close down (Higher Aperture Numbers F11,F16 etc) the depth of focus you will get. But remember it will slow your speed somewhat.

So you can tell from all the foregoing, vary your methods around Tav and AV and be afraid to experiment a little. The more you take with different settings the more chance of getting that "one in a lifetime" shot.

Being an action scene, I imagine you wont have heaps of time to think about it, once things get going. So take plenty of shots, and a spare SD card if you feel you may need it.

Sorry if I am going on a bit here
04-16-2010, 06:59 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by mel Quote
Once your shutter reaches "fast enough" it doesn't matter as much as getting the exposure right. So if you manually set it, and it's too fast, you get under exposed images.
I agree that getting the exposure right is a high priority. But if you are setting your shutter speed and you find that the setting is not good enough, then just change it. Experiment around and see what works over the course of a few dozen shots.

QuoteOriginally posted by mel Quote
This is what works for ME. I am constantly being told I do it wrong. When I try what everyone else says I should do I mess it up.
Hey, I am not trying to tell you that it's wrong. I was just trying to get inside your head and understand.

QuoteOriginally posted by mel Quote
Probably the take home message for the OP would be though, to find what method works best for you and go with that .
For sure!

QuoteOriginally posted by Bramela Quote
The more you close down (Higher Aperture Numbers F11,F16 etc) the depth of focus you will get.
Can I just edit that to "the more depth of field you will get"?

QuoteOriginally posted by Bramela Quote
So you can tell from all the foregoing, vary your methods around Tav and AV and be afraid to experiment a little.
"and don't be afraid to experiment"

I hope these corrections are what you meant. It's getting late here -- I'm off to bed.
04-17-2010, 05:58 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by song_hm Quote
Resist the temptation to shoot runner crossing the end goal, all the other photog will be there. Don't think about shooting people running, instead, think about shooting trial and tribulation. Don't limit your self to the runners.

For what it is worth, my last marathon.
That is FANTASTIC advice.

Also, when I used to shoot an event that I wasn't familiar with and didn't know what to expect, I always tried to have a few preconceived shots in mind that I wanted to nail right.

For example, at a thoroughbred race track, I wanted a shot of the jockeys and trainers in the paddock for the upcoming race, when they would discuss their strategy, and I tried to position myself near the paddock to frame all of them. Now, for horse racing at that time (the 70s), there were 9 races--so I had nine chances times as many clicks to get that shot. I don't recall anywhere near exactly how many rolls of film I shot, but let's say 6, and I got two shots that were "okay."

That's because I stink, and because I was working with the expense and time and machine limitations of my fully manual F2 film cam.

So, for this marathon, in addition to the great advice above about not just focusing on people running, you may want to preconceive a position to set yourself at to take a shot--like the classic one that EVERYONE does when the runners first take off.

Good luck! And please don't take any pictures of runners who crap their pants, which happens often in marathons.
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